Oct 30, 2009

to Kerala on Business

some time March 1992

Dad, Praveen, Padma Prasad, a marketing personnel from Epoch Instruments and I set off on a business tour. Our destinations were Grasim Industries, Mavoor near Kannur and FACT, Trivandrum. This was the very first trip in our van. The van was loaded; 5 adults + bags + an electronic weighing scale (which itself weighed around 80kg).

We left early morning, towards Mysore and we were at Prasad's brother's house at Kalpetta by noon. We had lunch there and proceeded towards Calicut. On the way we stopped by at Prasad's in-law's house which is deep inside a tea estate. The path to the house from the main road was few kilometers of narrow winding roads through hills covered by jungle.

We were introduced to other members of the family and shown through the house ...a typical Kerala style wooden house. The pooja room was a special one, the most unique I had ever seen. The room had mirrors on all four walls and the ceiling. An idol of Mahaveera stood in the center. The room had a multi-color illumination system; white, pink, red, yellow and blue. Different color lights and their combination created illusions of different times of a day. We all settled down on the floor and our host turned off lights and it was dark inside. Then one little bulb gave an effect of dawn and we progressed through all parts of a day till dusk and then darkness again. Moon-light was also a part of the show. It was creative and I loved the idea. Next our host showed us around the garden full of spices' plants ...cardamom, cloves, pepper, and many more I cannot recall. Our host served us spiced tea. We had to move on.

We touched Calicut and then took the road to Mavoor. We were at the factory gates by 4 PM. Got in touch with the concerned officers, went through the routine formalities of material delivery and soon we were at the spot where the scale was supposed to be installed. Some minor modifications were to be done in the roller conveyor system so that scales top and the conveyor top would be in line. It was planned to be taken up the following day. Praveen had to stay back (the guest house was right next to the factory) and get the work done while we decided to travel to Cochin.

We had dinner at a typical Kerala style restaurant, it was wonderful. Prasad suggested we move on since journeys on Kerala roads can be pretty slow at day time, the same journey would take twice the time and twice as tiring because of the coastal humid weather. Prasad also suggested we visit Guruvayoor Krishna temple which was on our route.

The temple as I remember looked pretty ancient and mostly black colored wood with sloping surfaces. The inside was lit with oil lamps and crowded with men in panchi and women in white sarees with golden borders. It was very warm inside. There were a couple of elephants and the drums were booming loudly. The pooja was a wonderful sight indeed.

We moved on and finally reached Cochin around 3 AM, we found a hotel and checked in. Morning we visited FACT factory to discuss check weighing system for their packing machine. The plant was pretty clean and well maintained. We studied the packing machine and it's conveyor system- that's where our scale would fit in. Later we had discussions regarding specifications and features which went on till about 2 or 3. Our work for the day was done, we had get back to FACT with our quote for developing the system, which could be done from Bangalore. Later we visited Prasad's brother's home and went back to our hotel.

Next we had to visit one of my mother's cousins S R Desai, a commander in the Indian Navy who was posted in Cochin Naval Base. We all had dinner at the Navy mess which is right next to back waters. We could see fishermen in small boats going about their work in silence. I remember having a veg sizzler. My aunt had invited us for breakfast the next morning. We had to climb 8 floors since the lift was out of order. The flat had a lovely view of the sea.

Soon we were heading back towards Coimbatore, Dad wanted to visit ACC, Madukkarai one of our customers. At Coimbatore Prasad and his colleague went to Bangalore. At ACC, our work was again at the packing section. Dad had discussions with the concerned officer about the check-weighing system we had supplied but was not functioning as expected. The instrumentation part required reprogramming. We returned to Mavoor by evening and work had progressed but not completed.

Following day the scale was in place and working. We trained the workers in operating it, all they had to learn was to tare it ...make the display zero by turning a knob. The customer was satisfied and our next task was to follow up payment. The invoice and other necessary papers were submitted to the purchase department and it would take 4 or days for the check to be realized.

During the two day stay at the guest house Praveen and I would come out evenings to watch fishes in the garden pond. Some fishes were almost 8 inches long. It so happened one of us threw a blade of grass into the water and a fish swallowed it ...this was something new to us- grass eating fish! We starting feeding them and the fishes had a party. In the beginning we would pluck only the tips, about an inch long, and later we discovered they swallowed even bigger ones. We had a great time together.

Praveen, Dad and I traveled back to Bangalore. Few years later, there was a major strike and the plant was shut down.

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